Regional | Te Whanganui-a-Tara

Wellington mayor Tory Whanau admits alcohol problem: 'I am a flawed person'

File / Whakaata Māori

Wellington mayor Tory Whanau has admitted she has a drinking problem after another incident of drunken behaviour in public.

The admission follows questions by RNZ about what happened at an inner-city bar two weekends ago.

In a written statement to RNZ, the mayor said she had a problem with alcohol.

She said that, to her “great embarrassment and shame”, her drunkenness seemed to have been recorded.

Whanau said she sought counsel from friends, family and colleagues and has since sought professional help.

“I am not a career politician, and leadership positions in public office are not built for regular people who may have struggles with addiction, mental ill health, or any other illness that has stigma attached. We have seen this play out with career-ending moments from politicians across the political spectrum in recent times,” her statement read.

“I am a flawed person, but I care deeply about this city. I will continue to represent the hopes and aspirations of my local community and I will do so with the compassion and care of those around me and with the professional help required.

“I would like to say to others struggling with alcohol issues that you can seek help and still commit to your passions, work, family, friends in a way that is meaningful. We are complex, layered people and deserving of love.

“I would appreciate respect and care from the media whilst navigating this period of sobriety and professional support.”

Several council sources have confirmed the mayor was at a popular establishment with friends late on a Saturday afternoon two weeks ago where her drunken antics were captured on video.

RNZ learned of footage circulating and put the allegations to her office.

Most councillors contacted by RNZ had heard the story and knew about the video in circulation, although none had seen the footage themselves and none would speak publicly.

Some expressed anger and disquiet about the mayor’s behaviour and questioned whether her drinking was affecting her ability to do her job - or at least damaging her reputation.

It is not the first time that the mayor’s drinking has come under public scrutiny.

In July she made a public pledge to change her drinking habits after admitting she was “tipsy” when she skipped out without paying a restaurant bill. She described it as a misunderstanding.

In an interview with Newstalk ZB at the time, she said she would not be going out for a drink on Friday nights anymore.

“This Friday I’m going to a theatre show, I’m still going to go out to stuff but I’m going to keep certain socialising to my home.”

In a post on Instagram this evening, a man who said he was the owner of Havana bar, said he was in the bar that night and his staff had told him Whanau and her friends were “very respectful and just having a good time”.

“It saddens me deeply that we can’t just go out and have a good time anymore.”

Whanau and her friends were welcome at the bar any time, he said.

The mayor responded, thanking him for his support and his mahi.

Another person also posted his support for her, praising her decision to seek some help with her drinking.